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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   107
another, the commander of which had been killed, and
with the remnants of the tank division covered the troops
retreating towards Minsk, In the battle on the Bug he
was wounded and lost his second tank. Again he got
into another tank the commander of which had been
killed and took over command of the company. Later,
finding himself in the enemy's rear, he formed a roaming
tank group of three machines, and for about a month
stayed far behind the German lines, harassing enemy
transports and troops. He replenished his stocks of fuel,
ammunition and spare parts on the fields of recent battles.
In the green hollows by the side of high roads, in the
forests and marshes, there were any number of wrecked
machines of every type.
He was a native of a place near Dorogobuzh. When he
learned from the communiques of the Soviet Information
Bureau, which the tankmen regularly received on the WT
set of the commander's machine, that the fighting line was
nearing his native place, he was unable to restrain him-
self, and after blowing up his three tanks, he, with his
eight surviving men, made his way through the forest to
rejoin our forces.
Just before the war broke out Gvozdev had been home
on leave in a little village on the bank of a small river
that winds through wide meadows. His mother, the village
school-teacher, had fallen seriously ill, and his father, an
old agronomist and a member of the Regional Soviet of
Working People's Deputies, had wired him to come
Gvozdev recalled the low log cabin near the school, his
mother, a little, emaciated woman lying helpless on an old
couch, his father, in an old-fashioned shantung jacket,
standing by his mother's couch coughing and pinching his
short, grey beard with anxiety, and his three little, dark-
haired sisters who closely resembled their mother. He also
recalled the village doctor, slim, blue-eyed Zhenya who
rode with him on the cart right to the railway station to
see him off, and to whom he had promised to write every
day. Prowling like a wild beast through the trampled
fields and gutted, deserted villages of Byelorussia, avoid-
ing towns and highways, he, with aching heart, tried to
guess what he would see in his native home, wondered